In Uzbekistan and regions of Central Asia, the walls are lined with colourful embroidered cloths called suzanis. The large cloths are created by hand and are an integral part of a young woman’s dowry. When a daughter is born, a large piece of cotton is brought to a village woman, the kalamkash, who sketches am elaborate design onto the cloth and divides it into strips (Union Purl, 2009). The portions of cloth are distributed to the women of the family who will work on them individually, returning them when finished for reassembly. This piece will become a symbol of the bride’s first home and family. As for the young girl, from the age of six, she learns and practices her embroidery skills on suzanis which will eventually be used to decorate her home.
A typical suzani pattern (above, Heilbrunn, 2007), features a central medallion surrounded by flowering shrubs and floral sprays, especially tulips, carnations and irises. It is not uncommon to find other natural patterns: leaves and vines, fish, birds (left, O’Connell, 2009) and fruit, especially pomegranates. The embroidery is traditionally done with silk thread although the colour seems to vary by region, both vivid and muted colours being used.
The very root of the word suzani is the Persian word for needle and the patterns, while complex, traditionally use only chain, satin and buttonhole stitches (bottom right, Union Purl, 2009). The base stitches are done with silk thread but one of the characteristics of suzanis is the extensive use of couching. This technique allows the use of thicker, sometimes metallic, threads that do not draw so well through cloth (top right, O’Connell, 2009). They are laid on the fabric and sewn into place with a second, finer thread.
While the oldest suzanis identified are only a few hundred years old, there are references in court records to embroidered textile wall hangings that fit the description dating back to the 15th century (below, Wikipedia, 2012). It is an art form still alive in this region however and still a part of the daily life of the people.
Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, Wall hanging [Uzbekistan (Nurata)] (07.72), <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/07.72> October, 2006, (Accessed November 7, 2012)
O’Connell, Barry, “Suzani Embroidery the O’Connell Guide”, <http://www.persiancarpetguide.com/sw-asia/Rugs/Uzbek/Suzani.htm>, November 18, 2009, (Accessed November 7, 2012)
Union Purl, “S Is For Suzani”, <http://unionpurl.blogspot.ca/2009/02/s-is-for-suzani.html>, February 8, 2009 (Accessed November 7, 2012)
Wikipedia, Suzani Textile, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzani_textile>, July 31, 2012 (Accessed November 7, 2012)